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A College Checklist
For High School Students

Fall/Junior Year

Compile a list of schools you like and gather information about them by phone, mail or the Web. Attend college fairs in your area.

Check out the dates for the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and register.

Start searching for scholarships from federal and private sources and from the schools you want to go to. You'll want to get started on those essays during winter vacation.

Buckle down on the academics -- now is the time that early "senior-itis" sets in. But junior-year grades are critical to prospective colleges. If you're taking any advanced courses, consider taking Advanced Placement tests as soon as possible. A good score can earn you college credit and save some money.

In October, take the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) in preparation for the SATs. Take the SAT or the American College Testing Assessment (ACT) for the first time in November or December, but be sure to register well in advance.

Spring/Junior Year

Start looking for a summer job to earn money for college expenses.

Time for the SAT and ACT tests again.

Plan to take achievement tests when you complete course work and while the material is fresh in your mind.

By March, narrow your list of colleges to a reasonable number -- between five and eight is a good range -- and have at least one "safety" college where you know you will be accepted. Schedule visits to the colleges on your list.

In May, ask teachers if they would write recommendations for your college applications. If they agree, ask if they would like to do so over the summer or in the fall.

Summer/Junior Year

Make sure you have all the applications for the schools you want, and begin filling them out.

Fall/Senior Year

Keep copies of all your applications. Allow plenty of time for your high school guidance office to send high school transcripts to the appropriate colleges.

Visit the guidance office often to make sure they are following through on your paperwork.

If you want to take the SAT again, be sure to allow at least eight weeks before you have to submit scores to colleges.

Mail your college applications well before the deadline.

Winter/Senior Year

By November, gather the copies you'll need of the family's most recent tax forms and bank statements, your driver's license and W-2 forms.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will arrive in your high school guidance office by December. You also can download a copy and file it electronically. Complete the FAFSA and mail it as soon as possible after Jan. 1. Your application must be received by the processor no later than June 30, 1997, for the 1997-98 school year. This is the basis for all the financial aid you may be offered.

The FAFSA should be processed in about four weeks. At that point, look for your Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail. If your SAR is delayed, you can check on your application by calling (319) 337-5665 (from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday).

When you get your SAR, verify the information. Make any necessary corrections on Part 2 of the SAR and return it to the address given at the end of Part 2. Make sure your colleges of choice have a copy of your form.

Spring/Senior Year

Start looking for your acceptance letters. They usually arrive before May 1. Financial aid administrators, at the colleges that accept you, will verify the information from your FAFSA, determine your aid eligibility and send you a financial aid awards letter. This letter will state the amount of aid for which you are eligible and the types of aid (grants, loans and/or work study) that make up your aid package.

Evaluate your options and make your selection. Let the schools know what you decide -- even if you don't plan to attend. That will free up a place for another student.

If you qualified for student or parent loans, get the right forms and review lenders to see which one is right for you.

Summer/Senior Year

Shop carefully for everything you will need for college. That will help you avoid last-minute, expensive buying decisions.

Keep in touch with your college financial aid office to check the status of your finances. Make sure everything is going according to plan.

Save all your monetary graduation gifts and money from your summer job. Relax and look forward to a great college experience.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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